Drama School Audition Preparation

You’ve gotten your audition to the drama school of your choice, once you’re finished jumping up and down around the living room you have to ask yourself… what now? Now comes the hard work. You’re going to have to adequately prepare yourself in order to win over the hearts of people who hold your future in their hands and the best way to do that is to absolutely nail down your audition to secure yourself a place.

Here’s some of what you’ll need to learn for your Drama School audition preparation to stand apart from the crowd and get that all important place you’re looking for.

Classic Monologues

The thought of Shakespeare may send shivers up your spine, but there’s no way around it. All schools will want to see you perform a piece of classical verse, which is just writing but with a specific rhythm. Some schools give you dates that your piece will need to be from, whereas others will want a Shakespeare piece.

The most important thing to do is to not dread it, or to let the language psych you out. Shakespeare wrote plays about people and problems that are still relevant today. That’s why his plays are still performed. Find a monologue or soliloquy that speaks to you, one that you feel emotionally invested with. Even if the language fails you, the connection to the text won’t.

There are of course some very famous Shakespeare speeches. Usually from a bloke called Hamlet. By all means, you can use them, but just be aware that you need to make the speech your own and avoid a second-rate Benedict Cumberbatch impression.

Also, know the play. You really can’t fake it. Your character won’t be three-dimensional and you’ll fall apart in interviews. You need to approach classical monologues as you would any other part; which means doing the necessary work.

“Classical Monologues can seem daunting to some yet exciting for others. There’s a wealth of Monologues that are known and loved, I’d start with Shakespeare. Don’t be afraid to cross-gender but have yourself a backup that is to your cast-ability. Have at least two/three speeches that range in genre to show some versatility. Again, read the plays, go watch them, know them word perfect (Shakespeare’s on pretty much constantly for you to watch and your panelists will most likely know the piece you’ve chosen) or/and get that subscription for digital theatre to revel in the range of plays and documentaries about the plays and Shakespeare himself plus the Elizabethan/Jacobean era to expand your knowledge as much as possible.

Charlie Barker, Arts Ed

 

“Classical monologues used to scare me off but it’s just as easy, if not easier, to find a 16th century monologue as it is to find a modern one. Shakespeare is a good go to – you can find a wide variety of characters that can suit what you want to present. A lot of them do not specify how old they are, so unless it’s someone like Lear, you can justify your performance of that character. However, don’t just focus on Shakespeare. His contemporaries – e.g. Marlowe, Webster – offer complex character that will be done less at auditions and make you stand out to the panel.”

Max Kinder, National Youth Theatre

Modern Monologues

Another requirement at auditions is a contrasting modern piece. Similar to Classical, it helps if the monologue is your castibility, but showing a different side. If your Shakespeare is quite high energy and funny, try to find a modern piece that is more thoughtful and gritty. It just leaves the panel in no doubt that you have range and can tackle different characters.

Finding modern pieces is quite difficult. Avoid monologue books as you can bet hundreds of others will have the same book on their shelves. Instead, go and watch as much theatre as you can. You may come across a beautiful monologue that speaks to you, and you can then chat about it with your panel.

Samuel French’s has a massive collection of plays to trawl through. You’ll always stumble upon a great monologue when you put the effort in. Once again, work these speeches. Ake character choices and have clear objectives. The writer has done half the battle.

“Unless you have a burning passion and deep connection to them try to stay away from the mainstream monologue pop culture that washes in audition rooms year after year. Go to see as many plays as you can. If you’re not from London, like myself, travel to different regional theatres, read as many plays as you can or get a subscription to digital theatre and watch from the comfort of your own bed.”

Charlie Barker, Arts Ed

 

“Find at least one that will make you really look forward to auditioning. I literally couldn’t wait to get up and do my Hamlet…it really helped. Don’t avoid the “big” characters in Shakespeare. Find contrast in the other speech – this is crucial. Check that these speeches suit you, show them to an industry professional if you can.”

Finbar Varall, Rose Bruford College

Song

If auditioning for an acting course, you won’t be doing a massive amount of Musical Theatre if you get in. Still, it would be stupid not to open yourself up to the possibility of Musicals. They are a staple of West End theatres and can offer so much experience. Hence why Schools will often ask you to prepare a song.

If you’re not that comfortable with holding a tune, don’t work. As with all your pieces, pick something that resonances with you that you enjoy performing. Think of your song as your third monologue.

Panellists want to see you act through your song too; conveying the character and given circumstances, as opposed to just standing there like a plank of wood. It’s much easier to go for something that you can act through and feel comfortable with instead of trying to wow the panel with a one actor version of Wicked.

I always felt it was important to pick a song that not only showed off your ability to sing but your ability to sing but primarily one that helps you tell a story. Singing for an actor is just another medium of acting and sometimes it’s far more interested to watch someone portray a story truthfully through song rather than just hearing someone hit all the appropriate notes and sound amazing. Like with a lot of audition pieces find a song you can relate to on a personal level.”

Nathan Collins, Guildford School of Acting

Practical Exercises

Work on your monologues as you would any other in a play. Know their background and what makes them tick. Work like that will always inform your performance and create a more realistic character. What is your specific character’s walk or way of standing? How is it different from your own and how does it make you feel?

When working on monologues it always helps to have someone watching. Not just a random mate but someone in the industry. Maybe a particular director you have worked with? Maybe a fellow actor who you trust? Performing speeches in a darkened room in front of a mirror is useless. The character is talking to someone and requires that energy to bounce off.

Drama tutors are also very useful at this stage. They can really shake up a monologue that you’ve prepared, making it fresh and new to you, or they can help recommend a completely new piece that you will fall in love with. Obviously, this can be an expensive luxury and some tutors will be better than others.

Much like the schools themselves, do your research. Are they working actors at the moment? Where did they train? How successful have they been at getting their students into schools? All of this should inform your choice and ensure you spend your money wisely with a tutor that gets you and wants to bring out the best in you.

“Once you have your speeches and have done your research, get it on its feet as soon as possible. Don’t rehearse the speech over and over again in the same way, or else you’ll learn the speech with certain intimations and will be unable to get out of them should they ask to rework your speech. Try and find scenarios that your character can react to – losing their keys or preparing to get up for the day. Seeing how your character responds to situations broadens the character and helps you not get stuck in the audition scenario. Performing to friends and family will also help, as it gets rid of the nerves of performing publicly and can offer you advice that might help develop your speeches.”

Max Kinder, National Youth Theatre

 

“Never just look at the words on the paper: Fill every space you can to make that character more than just a monologue or text on a page.”

Ayesha Staley, Drama Studio London

 

“Don’t over rehearse, there is a fine line- but if you kill your speech early on you won’t enjoy doing it anymore. Work with an industry professional if you can – their advice is invaluable. Do yourself a favour and learn vocal warm ups to do before every audition.”

Finbar Varrall, Rose Bruford College

 

“It’s important to keep your pieces fresh so they don’t feel stale in auditions, otherwise you won’t be in the moment of your character instead you will just be saying words. Rolling around on the floor whilst doing your speech often helps to free up any patterns you feel you can’t break. Over rehearsing can be counterproductive so trust yourself when you know the piece is in a good place, just change the stakes or objectives of the speech when practicing just to play about with it, although the current stakes or objective of the piece you already have may be perfect, exercises like this help you find moments in the speech where you can get off one level and add more colour to a speech.”

Nathan Collins, Guildford School of Acting

On the Day

With schools all over the country, you are certain to be doing a lot of travelling. It’s imperative you are fresh and ready. Get a good night’s sleep and something to eat and drink. You may be shaking like a leaf but you need to be prepared for what the day throws at you.

Get to the school early. You’re not stressing about getting lost then if it’s an unfamiliar city. Sometimes part of the audition will include a warm-up or workshop, yet it’s always beneficial to do some of your own exercises beforehand, not only to warm up your voice and body but to allow your mind to get in the zone.

These workshops will often be quite physical and will be run by the Schools own staff. Be open in these classes. They are looking for bravery and a willingness to try things. Use it not only as an attempt to get into Drama School but as an exploration of acting. This enjoyment of the craft will shine through.

I’ve known so many great actors who dread interviews. It’s not an interrogation. The panel just wants to get to know you. See what your hobbies are, what kind of acting you’ve done before, and chat about your process. Which is why doing your work is so important. Know your character and your play inside out so you’re not thrown off by any questions or redirection.

Knowing about the school is a great advantage too. If there is an aspect of the course your particularly excited about, let them know! Not only does it show your enthusiasm, but also that you’ve done your research.

“An obvious piece of advice, read the play you’re choosing, don’t be that person that can’t answer basic character questions that they ask you.”

Charlie Barker, Arts Ed

 

“It really comes down to personal preference, some people prefer to socialise others prefer to sit by themselves and be in their own head, for me I preferred the latter which is quite a polar opposite to my personality, but this helped me to get in the zone. It was never anything to do with nerves it was just what worked best for me when auditioning, obviously when you come to auditions that are 1 or even 2 days long socialising is good as you meet some really interesting people and sitting by yourself for a whole day can be rather counterproductive mentally. But generally, I would suggest to do what makes you feel most relaxed and trust that the work is there that you have done on your pieces. In interviews I was just myself and very honest, second guessing what the panel want can drive you mental so the best approach is just to be yourself. Always be open to change and take in any redirection given to your piece, generally if redirected it is not a reflection upon the work your instincts have offered up, often the panel just want to see if you can change up what you have prepared so be willing to go with whatever redirection you get given.”

Nathan Collins, Guildford School of Acting

Regarding the actual audition, there isn’t much to say apart from enjoy yourself! You’ve got the opportunity to perform for a group of people with a wealth of experience! They want you to be good because it makes their lives so much easier. Show them your love of the craft and they’ll show an interest in you.

Liked this? Why not take a look at Part I: What’s Best For Me or check out Part III: The Dreaded Wait.

Elliott Reeves Giblin

Elliott is a writer for How To Do Theatre, and is particularly interested in Fringe Theatre and new writing. A graduate of the YEP Actors course, he enjoys acting, directing and writing; but when not involved in all things theatrical he is off Kayaking or white water rafting.